real life

What to do when you need to call triple zero but you're not in a position to speak.

More than two years ago, a Reddit thread that invited 911 operators to tell the story of their most memorable phone call made international headlines.

Of particular note was the story of a young woman who pretended to be on the phone to Domino’s Pizza to alert police of the violent man in her house. The exchange with emergency services went a little like this:

“911, where is you emergency?”
“123 Main St.”
“Okay, what’s going on there?”
“I’d like to order a pizza for delivery.”
“Ma’am, you’ve reached 911”
“Yeah, I know. Can I have a large with half pepperoni, half mushroom and peppers?”
“Ummm…. I’m sorry, you know you’ve called 911 right?”
“Yeah, do you know how long it will be?”
“Ok, Ma’am, is everything okay over there? Do you have an emergency?”
“Yes, I do.”
“..And you can’t talk about it because there’s someone in the room with you?”

Naturally, people were impressed. The police arrived, the attacker was arrested. Good trumped bad, the story had a happy ending.

But what about those scenarios where stress doesn’t invite clear thinking? And what do you do if you are in immediate danger, but can’t open your mouth to call anyone about it?

There is a way to summon the police when you're not in a position to speak. (Image: iStock)

Leonie Johnson, spokesperson for Victoria Police, told Mamamia our emergency services have had processes in place for 10 years for those in danger who need to call, but can't make a sound.

The short of it is this: If you're in trouble, but can't alert your attacker to the fact you are calling the police, call anyway and hold the line.

Leonie explained that if you hold the line and don't say anything when an operator picks up, you will automatically be transferred to another line.

There, if you're able to listen to the automatic operator on the other end, you'll be asked to hit 55. That way, if you are in danger, police understand the reason for your silence and how opening your mouth will invite greater distress.


Emergency services will then track you down using location services and arrive as soon as possible.

What many should keep in mind, however, is if you're calling from a mobile phone police are unable to decipher your exact location. In that case, often police will investigate who owns the phone and what address is registered to that phone. They'll then come knocking on that address.

Therefore, in these kinds of scenarios, it's more effective to be calling from a landline. For those who aren't residing in Victoria, the 55 process is the same Australia-wide. How each state handles the call is up to each police force.

Although we wouldn't wish this scenario on anyone, it's heartening to know processes exist, and your opportunity to reach those who may help isn't hindered by circumstance.